With eyes that were beginning to water in the corners, Loyola coach Charley Toomey explained his decision to call the timeout that wiped out what would have been the go-ahead goal with less than a minute left in regulation. It was a decision made before Blake Burkhart won the faceoff clean and deposited the ball in the goal.
The score didn't count, though, because Toomey had called that timeout. And so the Greyhounds' game with Duke went into overtime, and the Blue Devils scored the winning goal with 1:40 left in the second overtime to win 12-11, sending the defending national champions home.
This will be the first weekend in men's lacrosse NCAA tournament history that a Maryland team hasn't advanced to the quarterfinals.
"We said it in the huddle, if we get it in the box, we're going to call an immediate timeout," Toomey said. "We'll live with that. It's something I'm going to have to live with."
Loyola (11-5) controlled the pace of play for much of the first half and led 7-2 at one point. The Blue Devils (13-5) were sloppy early, drawing four penalties in the first 4:05 of the game.
Goalie Jack Runkel, who recorded a career-high 22 saves, had the benefit of his defense forcing the Duke attackers to take most shots from their weak hands. But slowly, Duke settled down and started speeding up the tempo. The Blue Devils scored two goals in the final two minutes of the second quarter to go into the half trailing 7-4.
Long stick midfielder Scott Ratliff added his 14th goal of the season to put Loyola up 8-4 early in the third, but Duke scored five unanswered goals to take a 9-8 lead. Loyola last led with 3:32 left in the game, when Zach Herreweyes made it 11-10 thanks to his third goal.
The Blue Devils' starting freshman attacker, Case Matheis, scored the game's final two goals, one to tie it and the other to seal the win. Duke evened the score at 11-11 with 1:05 left in the game. Senior David Lawson had his shot bounce off the post. Matheis and junior Josh Dionne crashed the net, and Dionne's shot was blocked. Matheis was there to push the ball just over the line.
Toomey's timeout and Burkhart's waived off goal came on the ensuing faceoff. Duke junior Brendan Fowler, the ACC defensive player of the year, won 18 of the 24 faceoffs he took. But Burkhart won this one clean and raced down the field and beat goalie Kyle Turri, who never heard the whistle blowing the play dead.
A wave of relief came over the sophomore, who had made his first start of the year in the regular-season matchup between the two squads (Duke won 9-8). Time expired, and overtime ensued.
Duke coach John Danowski gave his team a clear focus heading into overtime: play to win.
"Don't worry about the consequences of screwing up or not making a play," Danowski said. "So that was kind of the mantra. Just play to win."
The Greyhounds' best chance to score came at the end of the first overtime, when Duke's Luke Duprey was called for tripping. Loyola had a man advantage for the final 33 seconds of the first overtime and the opening 27 ticks of the second. Harry Kutner bounced a shot toward the Duke goal, but it was stopped by Turri. Loyola's final shot bounced wide of the net.
While Matheis' goal touched off a wild Duke celebration, it signaled the end of Loyola's season. The seniors that had been instrumental in the program's rise had reached the end of their careers. Toomey said he apologized to his team for that late timeout, saying he "took the game away from them." But he also said he was looking forward to giving his seniors one final embrace on their five-hour bus ride back home.